18-year-old Harry McNicholl from Anfield is currently a Level 3 Customer Service apprentice at Cobalt Housing. Having previously worked in retail, this is Harry’s first apprenticeship.  Recently Harry had his apprenticeship extended until April 2021 and has shared his apprenticeship experience so far.

Young male apprenticeHow does a work-based apprenticeship work?

“No days are actually spent in college; I’m given proper work experience in an office-based environment.  I am learning skills needed in the future when applying for other jobs.

“We are given time to complete coursework on Thursday afternoons with our college assessor. It’s a very well-connected business and works well with many other organisations so it’s given me the chance to excel and learn new skills.

“There are many events that we (Cobalt) run in our communities – so I’m given time away from work to attend these events and help.

“The pay is above average apprenticeship pay at Cobalt – not many other apprentice employers provide that.”

What did you know about apprenticeships prior to starting this? Did you know that degress could be undertaken as an apprentice?

“I was under the impression that they were low paid jobs, I was not aware that you get a proper qualification and tutored lessons to help learn skills for your role.

“I did originally look at business admin, however, working in retail and hospitality meant I had already learned customer service and communication skills.

“I was more focussed on finding a full-time job. However, being 17 meant it was a lot harder, and I also wanted to carry on with education. Sixth form or college were not an option for me I did not like either so a paid job where I also get to learn and get experience was perfect.

“At first, I wasn’t aware that apprenticeships could obtain degrees and qualifications, once I looked into it more, I learned I can attend university once I complete my course and if I achieve my NVQ level 3 I will have some options for further courses.

“There are a lot more options to grow and expand with apprenticeships as I enjoy the professionalism of it, and it is different than obtaining a qualification in the same ordinary classroom or college.”

What would you like to do once you have completed your customer service apprenticeship?

“University is an option however I think full time work would be good for myself, I am wanting to move out and begin to live my own life, a routine of work suits me and keeps me busy.

“I am hoping with my qualification I would be able to apply for more senior roles, possibly manager or team leader positions. With the skills that I have learned, I can continue to develop my skills on working well with customers and managing teams.

“I would love to run my own business I am just not sure what it would be or learn more about interior design. I am focussing on meeting my targets until I leave Cobalt in April then hopefully, I will have a clearer idea of what I want to do next.”

Do you have any advice for others considering or looking for an apprenticeship?

“It’s a good option to investigate, there are so many options and courses you can choose. Also, it’s a secure payed job for at least a year unless extended. If you enjoy working and earn a wage but also want to learn new skills or work experience, then it’s something to investigate.

“Also, if applying, then apply for more than one. I applied for many, some were not right for me but to have more than one interview and give yourself options is good.”

Harry’s manager, Kathy, spoke on Cobalt’s long-term commitment to the apprenticeship programme and what it means to them as an organisation.

“Cobalt’s apprenticeships within the contact centre at Cobalt Housing have been extremely successful for over 7 years.

“A vast proportion of our apprentices have gone on to secure permanent contracts within either the contact centre or wider business at Cobalt, this is really valuable for us as a business as the time spent investing in their learning journey and development is then re-invested within Cobalt.

“Our apprentices are treated as one of the team and learn as much as other officers about customer service and the housing sector as a whole and we as employers find it incredibly satisfying to see them grow into knowledgeable and valuable staff members.”